Hanging out with Harvard Law students last spring opened my eyes up to a whole new world. It makes me notice stuff like this:
In fact, he makes the case that the most open-source line of work around--the business in which competitors are not only free to help themselves to each other's work but are actually encouraged to do so--is the legal profession. To prove his point, Young asks that you imagine a lawyer who spends months and maybe even years pursuing a case through the system and finally ends up making an oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, where his novel and clever interpretation of the law is embraced by the court and entered into precedent. "As soon as the words are out of his mouth, any other lawyer can use those words without his permission," Young says.
The work behind that new Supreme Court precedent--the R&D, so to speak--would have been paid for by the lawyer's client, who was on the hook for the billable hours that led to the decision. But neither the client nor the lawyer would be able to make any claim to the new interpretation of law. As Young points out, it would be immediately available at no cost to anyone who would like to use it for their own cases.
Law! It's turned from "mysterious black box PLZ RUN AWAY!!!" into "mysterious black box that will remain pretty mysterious to me, but which I kind of know how to ask questions about, and have people to ask said questions to, because those people understand law in a way I never will - and I now also have some notion about the way lawyers think and what they do so that I know the vague shape of the tool it is, and how it sees and shapes things." I have confirmed that I should probably never become a lawyer (in the same way I should never be a doctor in the conventional "go to med school" sense), but I'm incredibly fascinated by it now, and curious, and all those sorts of happy things.
Lawyers are cool.